Keeping livestock warm a challenge PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Farm Editor   
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 10:55
Gary Reynolds feeds his pigs inside a heated barn. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
"It ain't a fit night out for man or beast," is an oft-quoted line from a W.C. Fields short.
With very few exceptions, nobody likes the extreme cold temperatures we are enduring this month. But what about the beasts known as livestock in our farming community? How are farmers caring for their animals?
"We pamper them because this is our livelihood," said Jonathan Haines, a livestock farmer as well as the director of the Wood County Farm Service Agency office.
He said animals are very good at adapting to the climate, noting how horses, cattle and other livestock will turn their backsides to the wind to help shield themselves. He also noted how they may herd up and seek wooded areas or other natural shelters.
Tim Seedorf concurred. He raises steers with his brother, Jason, as herd managers for Nichols Farm.
"It can be dangerous for livestock. One of most important things is to get them out of the wind," Seedorf said.
He said the animals need to be in the woods, a building or any other natural windbreak.
"Neither of them like it," said Gary Reynolds said of the cattle and hogs he raises, "But the cattle handle it better than the pigs."
Reynolds operates the farm along with his son, Chad, in rural Wayne.
Over the weekend they had two sows give birth to litters of 15 and 10. Those births were in a warm insulated barn.
"Without the newer buildings, that wouldn't happen, they need the warmth," Reynolds said, adding, "You have to have the heated buildings to make this go. This is something you wouldn't want to turn the clock back on."
Both Seedorf and Reynolds also noted other newer innovations which are beneficial such as automatic heated water receptacles for the livestock.
"Most farmers and livestock producers have automatic water dispensers with heaters," Seedorf said.
"It's been a job to keep water lines from freezing," Reynolds said.
He noted that he has 12 waters in unheated buildings and two had frozen up this year.
Baby pigs, a day old, are seen at Gary Reynolds' farm.
"Those two had never froze until this winter," Reynolds said.
Seedorf also noted the dew temperatures drop in winter and how many people may not realize the dangers involved in keeping the livestock properly hydrated.
"Water is just as crucial if not more crucial in these temperatures and you have to keep water from freezing," Seedorf said.
This is also calving season.
"Calving out on pasture is not a good idea in this weather, so we bring them in the barn," Haines said of the cows about to give birth. "When extreme conditions occur, good livestock handlers will put them in a barn."  
"The cows are giving birth to calves right now and all has gone very well," Seedorf said of his operations. He added, however, that cold weather is preferable.
"Ideally I like it 25 to 30 degrees when calving. It is better than wet and sloppy conditions. But this is a bit excessive."
"The animals and us will be glad when it gets to 25 degrees - that will feel like a heat wave," Reynolds said.
Until the weather breaks, the farmers will do what they have to do providing sufficient shelter, food and water.
They all noted that the animals do eat a little more when the mercury plummets.
"They eat a little extra to keep their body warm," Reynolds said, noting they are not as active.
"Like anything else, cows need more fuel when it's cold," Seedorf said, adding, "They are made to take it a lot better than we can."
Haines agreed, noting with cattle, "The cold does not bother them, they have a good coat of hair and as long as they have a supply of food and water, they are happy. They will just sit and chew their cud."
Despite that, he added the farmers are going to prepare for the most adverse conditions to ensure the survivability of their animals.
"We use plenty of straw. It provides good insulation and gives them something to lay in that gives them insulation from the cold," Seedorf said of the practice used by all farmers.
With animals, the cold does require more attention and labor from the farmers.
Of his usual daily chores, Reynolds said, "Jobs you usually get done in an hour in the summer months now take all morning."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 11:05

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